Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pecan-Orange Frangipane Crostata with Candied Cranberries


The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.


We were given a specific recipe for pasta frolla, but we were otherwise allowed to chose our flavors and fillings.

Inspired by the season, I decided to add a pinch of cinnamon to the dough to provide a slight spiciness to counter the filling.  I wanted the filling to be a beautiful, sweet frangipane, created with toasted pecans and a bit of orange zest.


Then, to add another layer of flavor to the dessert, I candied cranberries.  The taste of this extra component was wonderful and the beautiful red liquid added an extraordinary contrast on the plate.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup with Cream & Spiced Nuts


Today, as most Americans are recovering from a massive food hangover, I will be preparing and serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

With the help of my good friend Victoria, and a glass of wine or three, we will serve an entire turkey dinner from my closet-sized kitchen, equipped with two gas burners and a counter top oven.

The key to ensuring this dinner goes off without a hitch has been major planning and plenty of advance prep work. Anything and everything that could be made in advance is sitting, neatly labeled in my half-sized refrigerator.


This soup whipped up beautifully a few days before our actual feast. The recipe yielded more soup than I expected, so I simply froze half for the bitter winter days ahead.

To elevate the soup just a bit for serving, I will add a drizzle of heavy cream and a pinch of spiced nuts, which conveniently can also be made ahead of time.

Now that I am armed with a beautiful appetizer, I can focus my attention on more important matters, like praying the brining bag does not explode all over the refrigerator.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nana's Oatmeal Rolls

These rolls have been served at every family Thanksgiving, warm from the oven with a pad of butter melting lazily across the top and down the sides of the bread.

So today, as we eat, drink, visit with family and friends, and give thanks to be so blessed, I would like to share this recipe with all of you.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. I am blessed beyond words and am reminded of this as the smell of these rolls escapes from the oven. I inhale deeply, the scent filling my nostrils and throat, and I am transported home to Virginia, sitting around my family's table, eating, laughing, enjoying.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ricotta-Prosciutto Pizza


I have a recipe for pizza dough that I absolutely love. The smooth ball of dough kneads together like silk between my fingers. Then I wrap it lovingly, tightly, place it in the refrigerator, where it sits undisturbed for two days.

But this is not that recipe. 

See, the problem with that pizza dough recipe is it requires planning - a long two nights before actually making and consuming the delicious pizza.


So, when Mike phoned me one afternoon last week, wondering if we might be able to enjoy homemade pizza for dinner that very evening, I reached back into my recipes for the first pizza dough I ever made.

Homemade pizza dough in less than one hour.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Ricotta


Ricotta cheese has never been a favorite of mine. Perhaps my distaste results from calzones stuffed with incredibly unhealthy amounts of watery, flavorless amounts of this cheese.

As such, I have always steered away from using ricotta as a star ingredient in any of my savory dishes and especially not in any of my sweet desserts.


But my strike against ricotta came to a fateful end at a cozy restaurant in Italy, where Mike and I shared our first non-airline, non-airport food in a long 20 hours. Being in Italy, we chose to indulge in pizza - I chose margarita and Mike chose ricotta with sausage.


After our first few bites, we cut off a slice to exchange with each other. I tentatively took a bite of the ricotta-sausage pizza, hoping to be able to keep down the rubbery, flavorless ricotta on a mostly empty stomach.

But the flavor and texture of the ricotta was shocking. "It's so pillow-y! It''s like clouds!" I exclaimed, as the supermodel-esque table next to us glanced over from their salads, annoyed.

Mike agreed with a nod and silent smile.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolat Milano


Upon entering the storefront, our eyes were drawn to the cute, wooden sign above the espresso bar. And then, as the crowd slowly inched towards the gelato bar, my eyes were filled with container upon container of gorgeous gelato. I instictively gasped and grabbed Mike's arm. He responded with wide-eyes and a nod. We knew something delicious was about to be presented to us.

Wanting to try each and every flavor, I could not make a decision for the life of me. But I finally decided on Nutella, café, and dark chocolate. Mike ordered two cafés for us as I secured a table, photographed the gelato, and admired the chandeliers. Amazing gelato, strong cafe, and a cozy storefront. Mike and I loved this place so much, we purchased our only souvenirs from Milan on our way out - two espresso cups and saucers, complete with the name of the shop and the cute cow!


Chocolat Milano
Via Boccaccio 9
Milan, Italy

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mulled Apple Cider


A fall wind is whipping through the dark, crowded streets of Manhattan this evening. The chill makes me want to seek shelter under my puffy down comforter and stay huddled there for the remainder of the day.

But it is even more comforting to mull some apple cider on the stove top, allowing the spices to fill the apartment with their familiar, homey scent. Twenty minutes later, I can wrap my hands around the mug containing the fragrant, warm liquid.

One sip and I am warmed down to my tippy toes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pasticceria Marchesi


Pasticceria Marchesi, one of the oldest pastry shops in Milan, was among our best finds while in Italy. Each morning, Mike and I elbowed our way up to the small, packed espresso bar.

I loved starting the day with a smooth cappuccino, while Mike preferred a strong café. But we both thoroughly enjoyed the flaky, buttery cornettos, brushed with a barely sweet glaze.


The interior of the shop is a dream for any lover of sweets.  Old-fashioned shelves house jars and jars of candy, while dark wood display cases encase hundreds of perfectly prepared pastries.


Outside the shop, the display windows are equally as beautiful.  The treats are showcased for only one day, as each morning we returned to fresh pastries and new window designs.


So, if you find yourself in Milan, be sure to stop by Pasticceria Marchesi for a sweet start to your day.


Pasticceria Marchesi
Via Santa Maria alla Porta 11A
Milan, Italy 20123

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Home Again

After ten lovely, relaxing days spent in Milan and Barcelona, Mike and I returned to our sweet, little apartment nestled snugly among the Manhattan skyline.

Our vacation provided days filled to the brim with breathtaking architecture, long walks fueled by our morning cafés, delicious food, creamy gelato, and many, many bottles of wine.

I have so many photos, restaurants, and recipe ideas to share with you all from my trip.  But I will take today to readjust myself to the time zone, sort and begin editing over 2,100 photos, and laze about with an endless supply of coffee and soak in this last day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mast Brothers Chocolate


A few weeks ago, I ventured to Brooklyn with Mike and our friend Victoria to finally tour the Mast Brothers Chocolate factory.

I have wanted to take the tour for quite some time now, but it kept getting placed on the back burner for a variety of reasons.


As soon as we turned the corner to North 3rd Street, the overwhelming smell of chocolate consumed our nostrils.  

A few moments later we would discover the specific source of the smell - they were roasting cacao beans right in their tiny storefront!

At every opening of the convection oven door, a thick cloud of steam rose into the customers and danced its way out the open front door to the city streets.


Right next to this intoxicating aroma, employees were busy hand wrapping each chocolate bar in its very own gold wrapper.

You just can't help but think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


After learning a bit about the company and the current five locations from where they source their cacao beans, we were allowed to peek into the back room and try a handful of unhusked, unroased cacao beans.

There were machines which separated and organized the beans into nibs and husks...


...machines which ground the nibs into chocolate and more machines which tempered the chocolate into a silky, smooth existence.


Finally, for the best part of the entire tour - the taste testing!

We tried a tiny square of each chocolate base.  It was truly amazing to taste the differences in each little piece.

Afterwards, we made our way to the retail counter to taste each of the chocolates containing add-ins.  My hands-down favorite?  Fleur de Sel.


So, if you find yourself in Brooklyn and the strong scent of roasting cacao beans happens to blow your way, follow it to Mast Brothers Chocolate

Don't forget your free husk!


Mast Brothers Chocolate
105 North 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211-3927
(718) 388-2625
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